Literacy acquisition in my family is part of a seamless incorporation into a system that few people meta-analyzed, or pondered. In my family you went to school, at least till you achieved a high school diploma and there was much pleasure to go onto higher education beyond that. With this established as a starting point, this essay proposes to expound on specifics of my road to literacy and compare it to the three towns found in Shirley Brice Hearth’s paper on Work and Community Literacies.
Roadville, Trackton and Maintown are the towns profiled by Heath. Each has a distinct way in which literacy is incorporated into every day communication. They are best seen as a three step stairway, the highest step being where education I smost valued. The steps would be ranked Trackton, Roadville and Maintown.
I’ll begin with Maintown, which most mirrors my own literacy acquisition. In Maintown, children are read bedtime stories. In my family two, I think bedtime stories immediately created language acquisition something that was done for fun. It was entertainment. This, coupled with greater opportunities because of class, not only rewarded achievement in academics. Reading was rewarded all throughout my childhood. My gradeschool had a program that rewarded with prizes based on the number of books a student read in their freetime.
Roadville’s paradigm of literacy acquisition was one that, when compared with Maintown, stifled deeper literacy understandings. Parents in Roadville dumb down stories that they feel will be too complicated. My parents tell me that they always explained things to us “like it was” at an early age, even when they knew that I was too young to understand. They have told me that they did this precisely so that I would learn to understand the complicated things they were giving me to process.
One other difference between my upbringing and that of Roadville is that I learned to attach specific labels to items. Im Roadville an adult might refer to a book about puppies as “the book about ducks” rather than referring to it by it’s title. In my upbringing (I am making an assumption here), the book would have been referred to by its title. (Heath, 59)
Roadville, this is a town containing people who could be compared to immigrants coming to the US. They are white, so enjoy the racial privileges that come with that at the time, and do not suffer from language barrier. In Their history they remember a time when their kids got better education.
Roadville has a rote education system, where students learn to memorize symbols and their meaning, rather than evaluate, compare and creatively respond to. I went to schools that I taught through rote
This is what bars them from moving ahead to “extra-credit items or to activities considered more advanced and requiring more independence.” In essence, these children are more concerned with pleasing the teacher than they are with learning their lessons.
In my education, teachers would lead us on elaborate games where we would explore creatively things. Discussion was encouraged and our teacher mandated mantra was, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” This provided an apt ambience for learning to occur.
Trackton seems most distinct from my own upbrindging and literacy acquisition. Communities like Trackton essentially no longer exist in the United States. As a place where little emphasis was placed by the state on education, and with many white collar jobs at the time not being given to people of Trackton, it creates a setting almost opposite in it’s magnitude of difference from my background.
Children in Tracton are not admonished for poor grammar, and are actually encouraged in flawed grammatical constructions. Adults do not pay attention to their children’s “talk.” And they often repeat his presumably ungrammatical speak. (Heath, 65). In the household I grew up, we were correctly when poor grammar was used, and this fostered a literary acquisition that conformed with the standard speak of professional life.
People in Traction live at the level of oral traditions. It is why “Lem” when recounting a story, did so in a manner that is much longer that children from Maintown or Roadville might have done. Cultures of oral traditions put emphasis on the storyteller and his ability to tell, with colorful words and added details a compelling performance narrative.
In my upbringing, the stories came from books. Stories were actually synonymous with books. When one of my parents said, “Do you want read a bedtime story,” what story referred to was one of, what to a young child seemed unbounded shelf, of children’s story books. This association for me unlocked a world of discovery within books. In traction people navigate and acquire knowledge through someone and many of the residence of the town do not have the ability to access the hidden world of book.
Literacy acquisition leads to the level of literacy an individual and community has which in turn affects life in a profound manner. Culture, socio-economic and educational access and quality all contribute to this. My comparison to Heath’s three towns in this essay establishes the importance of context in literacy acquisition, upon which literacy outcomes are based.
Brice Heath, Shirley . "What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and school." Language in Society 11.1 (1982): 49-76. Print.